Sunscreen use could cut melanoma by a third

Regular sunscreen use by all Australians could drive down the burden of melanoma by up to 34 per cent by the year 2031, according to a study by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.


The findings mean an estimated 28,071 fewer melanomas would be diagnosed in Australia over that time.


The head of QIMR Berghofer’s ­Cancer Control Group, Professor David Whiteman, said his research team predicted the likely impact of regular sunscreen use on melanoma rates.


“Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight is the main environmental cause of melanoma, with researchers estimating that it causes anywhere between 63 per cent and 90 per cent of all melanoma cases,” Professor Whiteman said.


“Broad spectrum sunscreens provide protection from the sun’s harmful rays and if applied daily, can reduce the risk of developing melanoma.”


Professor Whiteman said data about the effectiveness of applying daily sunscreen on melanoma came from QIMR Berghofer’s long-running Nambour skin cancer prevention trial.


The investigators modelled a number of hypothetical scenarios for the Australian population, including  mandatory sunscreen application for people aged 45-65 years, for all school-age children and, in the ‘best case’ example, assumed 100 per cent of the population used sunscreen at all times.


The study found increased regular sunscreen use by older Australians would have the greatest overall impact on melanoma rates in the short-term.


“The burden of melanoma is highest in the older population, so the most effective sunscreen intervention in the short-term to reduce melanoma was within that population,” Professor Whiteman said.


“Given that sun exposure in early life may be an important factor in melanoma development, it is also possible that the benefits of regular sunscreen use are greater in children than this study suggests.


“The evidence strongly suggests that people who use sunscreen regularly significantly reduce their risk of developing melanoma".


31 January 2018.